Less than six weeks until Ironman and I’m really fighting the panic that’s trying to overtake me. With only about four weeks of productive training left, my training distances are getting long, really long. Saturday was a 6 1/2 hour ride, Sunday was a 3 hour run and they just get more intense over the next few weeks.
I’ve been training without music this year. Not so much by choice, all my music devices seemed to have broken all at the same time, but I see this as a training opportunity so no worries. It just makes those long rides and runs extremely boring. I have been reciting a lot of Shakespeare though. (Did I ever mention that when I was in high school I did a comic book on “The Taming Of The Shrew”? I also took Shakespeare in college.)
The verses that have been running through my mind lately have been from “Henry V.” Riding along the Ironman World Championship course I can’t help but think how lucky I am to be able to live here and how there are so many people out there who would love to be able to ride the bike course just once in their life. And that thought always leads to Shakespeare and Henry and the Saint Crispin’s Day speech.
I just know parts of it. It’s a long speech and I’d love to be able to memorize the whole thing, but that ain’t gonna happen. But the parts I do remember are the good parts and on those days when I’m riding the hills to Hawi and the sun is shining and there’s not much traffic or wind and someone rides by me that I know, I think of a few lines and it always makes me smile:
“This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall never go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered,
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers”
NBC re-aired the 2009 Ironman World Championship broadcast a couple of weeks ago and I think I got more comments about being on the show this time than when they aired it originally in December 2009.
My segment, which comes near the end of the show, begins by showing me walking into the water getting ready for the swim.
Someone asked me after last week’s broadcast what I was thinking while walking out into the water. They said it looked like I was either scared to death or deep in thought.
I told them I was just really focused but honestly I was scared to death. I was also in awe of just being there and, believe it or not, a few verses of Shakespeare were running through my head.
I remember as I descended those steps and looking out over the thousands of people lining the sea wall and thinking “this is so freaking cool.” Then I saw the nearly 2,000 swimmers in the water and I thought, “I’m going to die!”
That’s when Shakespeare popped into my head. “Henry V” to be exact. And although I don’t know Shakespeare well enough to quote it verbatim, I know enough to twist a few lines into a calming mantra.
The lines that began running through my mind as I walked out into the water were:
“Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more ... But when the blast of war blows in our ears, then imitate the action of the tiger -- stiffen the sinew, summon up the blood, disguise fear with rage”
That may not be exactly how Shakespeare wrote it but those words summoned up enough courage for me to walk out into 2,000 other maniacs just waiting for “the blast of war” to blow in our ears.
My favorite part of the “Breach speech,” however, is what I concentrated on while waiting for the cannon to fire:
“I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips,
Straining upon the start. The game’s afoot:
Follow your spirit, and upon this charge
Cry ‘God for Harry, England, and Saint George!’ Oh, and don’t for get me, God ...” BOOM!